A few weeks ago there was a pretty viral video about how the cure to cancer is HIV. The video is about how a child with recurring leukemia was infected with a virus that had the ability to reprogram the immune cells to attack cancerous cells within the body. And of course, that virus was the infamous HIV virus. The title of the video, “Scientists are now beating cancer with the HIV virus” is somewhat misleading. I hope the title didn’t send the message that it was okay to go and purposely get HIV in order to cure cancer for patients suffering from it!
There are a couple of things I wanted to note about this video. One is that in this study, they were using gene therapy. Gene therapy is more or less an alteration to organisms’ genes for the better (hopefully). They used a modified version of the HIV virus because of its gene reprogramming capabilities. They altered the virus in such a way that the virus is unable to use the host’s own cell machinery to replicate and subsequently cause AIDS. This altered HIV virus was used to reprogram the little girl’s immune cells (T Cells), so that they could recognize and eliminate cancerous cells. Secondly, even though gene therapy has been used in the past, we want to remember that this was done on a little girl who was given the death sentence. Our sample size in this study is 1. We don’t know if it will work for everybody or the long term effects (if they do, let me know!).
This has got to be the most amazing thing ever! On one hand (completely unrelated), a man is on his way to finding the cure to HIV (I believe they are at stage 2), while somewhere else, someone is getting close to finding a cure for cancer! How cool is that?! Yay, science!